We’re Still Hiring!

SetWidth360-Hiring-2013 (1)Among all of the bad news of layoffs in the energy industry….we bring good news! K&W is looking for detail oriented landscape architects that are drawn to the construction aspect of LA. If you love to see landscape design get built the way it was intended, you pay close attention to the details, and like to get out in the field – this is the job for you! Come work with Kudela & Weinheimer as a Construction Administrator, show us what you’ve got.

Mid-Level LA Construction Admin

Psychology of Social Spaces

Author - Danielle Bilot

Author: Danielle Bilot

Landscape Architecture is often perceived as a discipline that chooses plants, lays out sidewalks, and designs pools that gather immense amount of children at your home on your days off. In reality, we are much more than that. We are many disciplines all rolled into one: Horticulture, Engineering, Agriculture, Architecture, Urban Planning, Soil Science, and many others. But the most important discipline that we employ is most often overlooked: Psychology. Beautiful designs do not just happen. They apply the proper use of lines, colors and textures to provide contextual clues to the brain that innately prompt people into performing certain movements to guide them through a space.

One of my focuses in graduate school at the University of Oregon was Understanding the Psychology of Social Spaces. Each time I have to design a space here at K&W, I program spaces according to the desired level of covert and overt socialization and the amount of movement that supports the primary function, depending on if it is a transition or gathering area. Then I use a combination of design guidelines that intuitively cue people into using the space appropriately. For example, when I design transition zones, I do not use many vertical lines because those imply a focus, to stop and look at. Instead, I use more horizontal lines that are easy for the eye to follow and simultaneously encourage movement. I use trees that have more horizontal branching habits, such as pines, white oaks, and some maples, but not a willow or a cypress. I use fences that have horizontal planks instead of vertical ones. I use pavement materials that are long and linear, not short and facing opposite the flow of traffic. Even the simplest details should reflect the use of an area. When choosing colors for splash pad equipment, I use color combinations that are opposite on the color wheel for the stationary objects that are vertical. It implies a focus point, especially with the water falling down around it. For elements like the loops that children are supposed to run through, I choose colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. These imply movement, or transition.  All of these principles create a cohesive, psychologically functional social space.

These are only a few of the design principles that designers can apply to make spaces more comfortable and easy to use. Too often we forget that “the pretty” can and should be functional and fit into the appropriate context of the overall site program. If you would like more information on design tactics like these, I would recommend looking at the book A Pattern Language. The University of Oregon campus is designed according to those principles in the book and has been commended for proper use of wayfinding methods, placement and size of green spaces, and retaining important connections to major buildings on site.

Click on the pictures below to show direct examples of the landscape design tactics talked about above.

Ms. Bilot, our “Bee Lady” as we affectionately like to call her – you’ll find out why soon enough if you stay tuned to the blog, has a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from University of Wisconsin and a Master of Landscape Architecture from University of Oregon. Ms. Bilot was acknowledged in GROW – Wisconsin’s Magazine for the Life Sciences for the positive effects of the Neu-Life Park built in Milwalukee. Having multiple awards under her belt, she is a talented landscape designer. Danielle has a passion for alternative methods of transportation (she rides her bike to work daily…IN HOUSTON) and organic, hormone free, non-gmo foods. She is, to say the least, our resident hippie.

Fulton Gardens was a Finalist at ULI Development of Distinction Awards 2013

Fulton Gardens. <<< Watch This Video!

Alongside of Insite Architecture, who created a modern senior living facility, Kudela & Weinheimer was responsible for the landscape design at Fulton Gardens. As mentioned in this video, Fulton Gardens was developed as a place for residents to have a place to “get to know each other.” Kudela & Weinheimer is proud to say that they could be a part of touching these senior residents’ lives by giving them beauty and functionality in their outdoor space.

Designing a Splash Pad

The Auburn Trails splash pad has a backdrop beautiful trees.

A Splash Pad can also be known as a splash park, water park, spray park or spray ground. However, if you ask a kid, they would probably call it a FUN PARK! With zero-depth water, splash pads are considered safe and eliminate the need for lifeguards because there is practically no risk of drowning. The parks can include ground nozzles, rainbows (semicircular pipe showers), mushroom and flower showers, dump buckets, movable nozzles for squirting and little rotating creatures that squirt water, usually in bright colors, the options are endless! You can spot splash pads at public parks, hotels and resorts, planned housing communities, daycare centers and even at the Houston Zoo.

As safety has become paramount in today’s world, especially for children, private communities have added splash pads, in addition to pools, as amenities offered to the families living in those communities. As well, some public parks have offered splash pads in addition or in place of public pools. Some local Houston public splash parks are at Hermann Park, Discovery Green, and Terry Hershey Park area, these parks are always busy with local area families, so having a splash pad in your “backyard” so-to-speak is a great perk of some master planned communities.

When Kudela & Weinheimer designs the landscape for a splash pad several factors go into the concept:  safety, end users, client budget, maintenance and aesthetics. Kudela & Weinheimer usually specifies Vortex equipment, because of their high quality and great reputation. The Vortex equipment can withstand a high level of commercial use and has a “SmartFlow “ adaption to reduce the environmental impact of water usage of splash pads designed with their equipment.

The landscape architecture recipe for splash pads includes tried and true design, as well as a dash of common sense. Here are the main factors the Kudela & Weinheimer team takes into consideration when designing a splash pad:

Surface Material:  Must be nonporous to prevent bacteria and buildup, must also be slip resistant, and have a good grip for running children. Brushed concrete surfaces can be made more interesting by stamping, etching and coloring and are a low-cost choice that has excellent traction and minimal maintenance. Other surfaces might be a rubber safety surface such as Pebble-Flex® which is specifically designed for splash pads and outdoor play surfaces.

Placement of Equipment:  Most of the time spray pads/parks are set up in zones depending on children’s ages.  Usually divided into 3 zones – toddler play, medium action and high action play zones, the right design can entertain children from 1 year of age to over 10 years of age, and some of you adults out there too, as long as you have a plastic mug with a margarita.

Safety:  The splash pad areas drain off immediately, making them “zero-depth” and eliminates standing water and risk of drowning! These parks accommodate the young children who haven’t learned how to swim just yet. Although some very shallow depth pools also integrate water cannons, mushroom showers and dumping buckets. Other criteria to consider for safety are slope grade, drainage, trip hazards, water flow rates and large diameter stainless steel components to discourage climbing.

Budget:  Developers have budgets, of course! When designing a splash pad / spray park / water park, Kudela & Weinheimer considers the overall site which will contain the splash pad and the developer’s specific requirements for water usage (see below). Splash pads start out with a ‘baseline’ cost of the underground system that you cannot see. However, there are several ways our firm can design splash pads to stay in budget; designing  in phases so that the splash pad can be made bigger and better as more funds become available, determining the size and number of components and design for minimal maintenance. Kudela & Weinheimer will never sacrifice the quality of the equipment or materials, which might end up in increased maintenance and repair costs!

Water Administration:  There are a few popular ways to use and/or reuse water on these structures. 1. Potable water that drains to a waste system and uses fresh water each time. This reduces any risks that may be associated with unclean water. This is not usually a good option for large spray parks or parks looking to maximize water conservation.  2. Re-circulating systems are similar to treatment systems used in pool facilities. Water is drained to a holding tank, filtered and chemically treated through one of the following procedures: chlorine, chlorine plus ultraviolet [UV] light, CO2).  A lot of thought goes into the planning of water consumption, to help conserve resources. 3. Controllers and Activation systems: Most splash pads use controllers for activation of the water jets. Of course there can be timing activators and activators used by the children where they push a button to get the water going.

Taking all of the above criteria into consideration, Kudela & Weinheimer can creatively design a splash pad that is fun for all ages but attainable for the developer’s budget and site requirements.

For developers the really different aspect to splash pads is that by Texas code they are not required to be fenced – although we usually fence them to prevent vandalism -and can be separated from the pool area for access all year if the weather is nice (Houston happens to have many nice days outside of pool season)! That brings up another point, splash pads can usually be maintained by the same company that maintains pools and needs about the same level of attention.

And that’s how landscape architecture for splash pads is done!

Kudela & Weinheimer has recently designed and finished construction administration for the new Fairfield Community splash pad with adjacent dog park and recreation center (construction drawings came from the San Antonio office); Lakes of Savannah splash pad; Oak Crest splash pad; and Auburn Trails splash pad and Eagle Springs recreation center and splash pad, which hasn’t been built yet. Visit our website to see more parks and community design.

There’s No Place Like Home

Master Planned Community Landscape Designer

It’s the American dream: a beautiful home, 2.5 kids, a dog (or a cat if that’s your thing), and a lawn to mow on the weekends.  We all want a place to come back to at the end of a long day that feels like home, where you get to feel safe, and gives you a sense of community.

I find my passion working on excellent examples of this with Friendswood Development Company, who introduced the concept of the master planned community to Houston in the 1960’s.  For the past 5 years, I’ve been able to lend a hand in shaping some amazing communities like ‘West Ranch’ in Friendswood, ‘Oakhurst’ & ‘ Auburn Trails’ in Kingwood, ‘Lakemont’ in Richmond, and ‘The Lakes of Savannah’ in Pearland.  The glue that holds these communities together and keeps attracting future home buyers is a united goal in creating livable, walkable, interactive communities that cater to people in the various stages of life.  Creating the splash park that transports a kid into wonderland, the greenbelt hike & bike trails that encourages a healthy lifestyle, the sidewalks and rhythmic shade trees that get you out of your house and into socializing with your neighbors is the goal, creating your community & your home.

I continue to look forward to new phases being developed within evolving communities like ‘West Ranch’, and I especially enjoy looking back at an established one like ‘Oakhurst’.  There is nothing more rewarding than getting to finally step back and observe the environment you helped create:  ‘The American Dream.’

Written by Briana Hirth

 “It’s wonderful to work with a tight-knit group of amazing professionals dedicated to achieving a united goal of creating unique and creative spaces for the surrounding community”

After receiving a Bachelor in Landscape Architecture with Honors from Texas Tech University in 2007, Briana moved to Houston and joined the Kudela & Weinheimer team.  Working with her team, she’s been able to put her training into practice creating livable, walkable spaces, for a variety of developments including, mixed use, office, master planned community, multi-family and commercial.
Her hobbies include photography and activities that encourage being outdoors like jogging, hiking, and walking her two wonderful dogs.